To balance the night of French legends that I spoke of in the last post – it was decided that we should come together again in early April to have a dinner that would be a tribute to some great Australian wines.
We gathered at Restaurant Atelier at Glebe – another restaurant with an excellent reputation.
We again selected the degustation menu as we find that it is best to space out the amount of time that you spend with each wine, and this is easier to do with multiple small courses of food.
The degustation menu is decided two days prior to the booking, to take into account what fresh produce can be obtained and it consisted of the following courses;
Sourdough Bread, EVOO, Balsamic & Tapenade, Échiré Butter
Chilled Spiced Lentil Soup & Roquette Oil
Duck Egg ‘ATELIER’ w Goat Curd Soubise, Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Roe
House-Made Black Pudding with Foie Gras, Seared Scallops and Parsnip Puree
Zucchini Flower filled with Prawn, Crab and Bill, Fillet of King George Whiting, Sauce Vierge
Rare-Roasted Gauler River Pigeon, Confit Cabbage, King Mushrooms
Seasonal Selection of Cheeses, House-Made Lavosh, Sourdough.
Sauterne Custard with Lychee Gastrique
Caramelised Almond & Praline Soufflé
It was interesting to note the similarity in some dishes to the menu at Marque (the Egg, Black Pudding, Rare Pigeon and Sauterne Custard) – but while they sound similar, the difference in flavour profile was quite pronounced for some of them.
I would say that if I were to cast a critical eye on the food (and I guess I am), it was of excellent quality and taste – but it probably didn’t quite have the depth of flavour or excitement that the food at Marque did. Some members of the party were not impressed with the Pigeon dish saying it was too rare. It is very rare and that gives a certain texture to it that you may or may not like, but for my tastes it was fine.
The service was smooth and well executed and Julian the sommelier was right on top of things when handling our wines. The glasses were alright but not great (bring your own if you are bringing special wines) and the number of decanters provided was good. The chef (Darren Templeman) was also able to produce some good looking (and apparently tasting) dishes for a member of our party who has a very long list of foods that he is unable to eat.
And the bill? $110 total per person including the 7 courses ($75), bread, cheese ($8), corkage ($8 per bottle), coffee ($5) and gratuity. I think for a degustation of this quality, you would have a hard time doing much better than that.
I think that Atelier is among the top level of restaurants in Sydney and if I were to rate it, I would give it 94 points including a couple of extra points for the value.
So, with that out of the way – let’s talk about the wines. 19 bottles opened and each one a classic wine from mostly classic vintages. Our 19 bottles were from 11 different wine regions in Australia, showing that regions outside those two or three that are currently in fashion can still make great wines. They performed as follows –
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 1996 – (Clare Valley, South Australia):
A mid-gold colour. Nose is comprised of butterscotch and lemon meringue, as well as some honey characters after some time in the glass. Length was good, but some overt acid on the palate disrupts the balance. Seemed a bit over developed, holding up alright but was apparently not nearly as good as another bottle consumed by two others at the table late last year and not a patch on the ’96 Grosset Watervale I had recently. 87/100
Tyrrell’s “Vat 1” Semillon 1994 – (Hunter Valley, New South Wales):
Rich nose of lanolin, honey and a small amount of toast. Palate is of medium intensity and has excellent mouth-feel, balance and length. A very good wine and it was consistent with a bottle that I had last year at a Tyrrell’s tasting. Drinking well now for my tastes, but should hold for some time. 92/100
Giaconda Chardonnay 2002 – (Beechworth, Victoria):
Nose has good intensity – toasty, spicy and caramel oak, citrus, nutty and minerally/flinty characters. What I really enjoyed about this wine was its texture and mouth-feel. It has very good length with excellent structure. It should develop very well over the next 5-7 years. 93/100
Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Chardonnay 1987 – (Margaret River, Western Australia):
Good complexity on the nose – toasty oak, marmalade, oranges, honey and grapefruit. Palate has good depth, but there is a note of tartness on the finish just disrupting the line slightly. Sits in between the two bottles I have had previously, one better (see here) and one worse. It was still an excellent wine and did deserve to sit in on a dinner of Australian legends. 93/100
Bass Philip “Reserve” Pinot Noir 1997 (375ml) – (Gippsland, Victoria):
I was truly in the minority at my end of the table, but I really liked the complex nose on this – stems, sappy, earthy, mushrooms and a bit bloody and gamey. I did not like the palate so much, there was some tartness and some aggressive stalk characters disrupting the finish. 88/100
Bannockburn “Serre” Pinot Noir 1998 – (Geelong, Victoria):
Nose shows stalks, cherry and earth as well as being a bit alcoholic. Palate was simple and somewhat one-dimensional, but I thought it was smooth and had good balance and carry. It wouldn’t surprise me if this took on some complexity with additional age. I preferred the aromas of the Bass Phillip, but would take the palate of the Bannockburn. 89/100
Mount Mary “Quintet” Cabernets 1986 – (Yarra Valley, Victoria):
Corked – musty and totally stripped of fruit on the palate. How can people say that they would miss the “romance” of cork? NR
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 – (Margaret River, Western Australia):
Youthful in colour. Nose has elements of violets, cedar, cassis and iodine. The palate is brooding and powerful yet beautifully balanced with all the elements present and working together. Excellent tannin structure and bound to be even better over the next 10 years. 93/100
Wynns “John Riddoch” Cabernet Sauvignon 1982 – (Coonawarra, South Australia):
This was the backup bottle for the corked Mount Mary. Mocha/chocolate, plum, earth and some capsicum (but in the background rather than the foreground “essence of capsicum” of the previous bottle I had generously been given the chance to try). The palate shows superb focus, depth and length. A remarkable wine that will live for years to come (bottle/cork variation pending). This was my Wine of the Night for drinking tonight. 95/100
Cullen “Diana Madeline” Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001 – (Margaret River, Western Australia):
A last minute ring-in for the 1996 Cullen DM. Alcoholic heat on the tight nose as well as some violet and cherry aromas. A tannic palate that culminates in a harsh acidic finish. Just a development phase or falling to pieces, I suspect probably the former. 87/100 on this showing.
Penfolds “Grange” Shiraz 1972 – (South Australia):
Corked – One of the worst cases of TCA that I have ever experienced initally – and almost unbelievably it got worse with more air – I was unable to reuse the glass that this was poured into. NR
Penfolds “Grange” Shiraz 1978 – (South Australia):
Furniture polish as well as the furniture itself on the nose. Palate is acidic, tannic, lacks fruit and has a bitter finish. This bottle was way past its best. 78/100
Henschke “Hill of Grace” Shiraz 1986 – (Eden Valley, South Australia):
The brett police were out early on this one but I wasn’t getting any. Dark chocolate, sour cherry, leather and sweet fruit on the nose. A still youthful palate showing some tannins sticking out a little bit. The palate was getting better and taking on weight with additional airtime. A lengthy finish. Just needs to come together a bit on the palate. 93/100
Henschke “Hill of Grace” Shiraz 1990 – (Eden Valley, South Australia):
Nice complexity on the nose. Cherry, raspberry, blackberry and very well integrated oak. Palate has good structure but is powerful and intense as well. Perhaps maybe just a touch of acid sticking out on the palate to disrupt what is otherwise a wine with a very long life ahead of it. 90/100
Penfolds “Grange” Shiraz 1990 – (South Australia):
Primary, rich nose of sweet caramel, chocolate, plum, spices and American oak. Good intensity on the palate, tannins are prominent but are of high quality. Excellent length. Very young and needs a significant amount more time to really strut its stuff. 93/100
Penfolds “Kalimna Block 42” Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 – (Barossa Valley, South Australia):
A vibrant nose of spice, raspberry, earth, tobacco, cedar, dustiness, cassis and restrained oak. The palate is very classy, elegant yet it has superb depth and intensity of fruit, wonderful balance and a long, unbroken line and length. It may not be a pure expression of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is a pure expression of Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon. Needs 10, maybe 15 years to be at its peak and could be one of the all time classics at its peak. My Wine of the Night for potential and just all around class. 96/100
Brokenwood “Graveyard” Shiraz 2000 – (Hunter Valley, New South Wales):
Very closed, very hard to judge. Some liquorice, violets, blackberry on the nose. The alcohol was showing through on the palate. I was excited to taste this, but it really felt a bit lacklustre. I would not touch another one for 5 years. 88/100
Jim Barry “The Armagh” Shiraz 1991 – (Clare Valley, South Australia):
The backup bottle to replace the ’72 Grange. From a single vineyard in the Clare Valley. A nose comprising pepper and spice, hazelnut, mulberry and chocolate. The palate has a certain vibrancy to it. Very good, long finish. Really enjoyable. 91/100
De Bortoli “Noble One” 1984 – (Riverina, New South Wales):
Nose shows a bit of promise with apricot, botrytis characteristics and sultana. The palate is disjointed, alcoholic, spiky and finishing short. Disappointing for one of the legends of Australian dessert wine.80/100